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Poverty and Potential


The Fabian Society has recently reported that by 2030, more than 3.5 million children in the UK will be living in poverty. The increasing gap between the rich and the poor, coupled with reductions in benefits that often hit families in which two adults are working as well as single-parent families, makes the most vulnerable – children - ever more vulnerable.

This week, I read a Report published at the end of last year by the NSPCC, entitled ‘An Unfair Sentence’. It highlights the invisibility of mothers in prison and of their very young children. I found it almost incredible to read that there is no official estimate of the number of infants affected by the criminal justice system. Most babies are cared for by family members while their mother is in prison, meaning that when she is released, her baby may have attached to other caregivers to the detriment of the mother’s own relationship with him or her. Babies who stay with their mothers at one of the eight Mother and Baby Units in UK prisons may receive an inferior quality of health service, and experience threats to their social and emotional development as they go through their critical 1001 days behind bars.

All of the above came to my attention at the same time as the All Party Parliamentary Group on Early Intervention restated its commitment to protecting the mental and emotional wellbeing of mothers, fathers and babies in order to reduce child abuse and ensure the most nurturing environment possible for all children born in the UK.

The APPG estimates that protecting the next generation from ‘disadvantage, inequality and dysfunction’ will save the country £23bn.

his evidence suggests to me a very simple calculation. If we spend £23bn now on addressing poverty (which isn’t always a factor in harsh parenting, of course, but certainly doesn’t help mothers and fathers to be the parents they want to be) we may make a significant contribution to the wellbeing of the next generation of children and, as poverty is often a factor in women’s crime, reduce the number of babies with mums inside prison.

It all seems very obvious?

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